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Youth Career Connect partnerships pave way for Bend-La Pine student internships, promising career paths

(Update: adding video, comment from Max Manufacturing internship coordinator, YCC representative)

East Cascades Works, Bend-La Pine Schools collaborate, COIC facilitates Youth Career Connect program

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Two welding students from Mountain View High School are finding their career paths through an internship at Max Manufacturing, a metal fabrication shop in northeast Bend. It’s part of a growing movement to get students trained in technical skills that will help fill an age gap in experienced workers.

Senior Joey Coffindaffer began his internship in April of last year and quickly discovered welding at Max Manufacturing was different from what he accomplished in the classroom. He learned high-level technical skills, but also how to meet deadlines, keep his eye on quality control, and perfect communication with coworkers.

In the months since last spring, Joey's pathway has become clear. He plans on getting his Associate's degree from Central Oregon Community College before attending Tulsa Welding Academy, where he aims to earn an Applied Agricultural Science degree.

“The internship is an opportunity you can’t get anywhere else,” he said. “I’m learning not just about the trade, but also about communication and business details. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn all of this. This internship is actually a blessing.” 

Internships like these are possible because of forward-thinking businesses like Max Manufacturing. They are also a reality thanks to a collaborative initiative between East Cascades Works and Bend-La Pine Schools.

The program is called Youth Career Connect, which is facilitated by the Youth Compass Program at Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council. Youth Career Connect aims to provide high school students with invaluable real-world experiences through internships in the local community. The program strives to provide for career exploration opportunities for students from all backgrounds.

Sarah Cochran, the Youth Career Connect program coordinator with COIC, said Thursday, "We're really striving for students to dream big and think about how they can contribute positively and be engaged in the workforce, as they gain skills and learn what it takes to be part of the workforce."

A direct link to YCC can be found within high school career centers, where representatives meet with students to discuss interests and goals. Students are then onboarded into the Talent Hub platform, where businesses post their opportunities and internship specialists coach students on job-readiness skills.

Representatives support students in internship programs from start to finish. Cochran said, "in the beginning part we offer interview skills, resume writing and just practice what the internship might offer. We are there as a resource, checking in with them, making sure things are going well."

This process allows for students to be serious applicants for when they see an opportunity that is a good match. YCC then offers support to the student and business for the duration of the internship.

Tanner Jacobson, a junior at Mountain View High School, has been in a welding class since his freshman year. Thanks to welding instructor Jeff Papke, the internship became an opportunity and Papke helped iron out Tanner’s schedule. He’s only been interning for a couple of months, but the experience is already making its mark.

“If you’re really interested in an opportunity, I would hop on it. You learn so much, and it gets you the experience you need to be ready for the real world coming out of high school,” he said. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m glad I got offered this opportunity.”

These opportunities are possible thanks to leadership at Max Manufacturing recognizing the value of bringing in young talent. General Manager Mike Garoutte saw his experienced team aging out, and the company needed to bring in a new generation of people to guarantee the longevity of the business. This is the second year they have worked with Mountain View High School on internship opportunities. 

Max Manufacturing head wielder Zach Martin said, "It’s mainly all about the kids, right? You know, getting them to see a different path than just college. I’d like to see this program go on for many, many years. And I hope other businesses also get into this and help these kids with future careers."

"I'd like to see this program go on for many, many years," Martin added.

Garoutte said he would encourage other businesses to open their doors in the same way.

“Established businesses are experiencing the same age gap we did and are concerned about the longevity of their business,” he said. “When they bring in interns to train, they’ll see the value on their own.”

Youth Career Connect is seeking to expand internship opportunities and invites local businesses to consider opening their doors to this rewarding program. Bend-La Pine Schools encourages businesses to participate in this initiative, emphasizing that internships should be structured to provide students with exposure to a specific career field, supported by dedicated staff within the partnering businesses.

Employers will benefit by building greater awareness of their business and career opportunities among students and families, and by identifying potential candidates for job openings directly from the internships.

Tanner Jacobson added, "the opportunity shows that you don't exactly need college. There's always other opportunities and different pathways you can take, especially like more towards blue collar jobs." He continued," I think it's a great way for the younger kids to show what we have and like prove ourselves. Find what you love and follow the path."

For more information on how to get involved in the Youth Career Connect program, please visit this website.

Article Topic Follows: Business

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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